The Reality of Chan Practice

{Sharing} Wisdom from the Shurangama Sutra in Daily Life: Contemplating Our Sensory Experiences

By Tom Kaczmarski

Rebecca Li's lecture, "Wisdom from the Shurangama Sutra in Daily Life: Contemplating Our Sensory Experiences ", is an example of Rebecca's ability to relate, what at first seem complex and abstract Buddhist concepts, to regular day to day life.  I highly recommend the video recording* of the talk on the Dharma Drum Chan Meditation Centre Vancouver website, but for now let me touch on what were highlights for me.

Recognising that an hour and a half is not nearly enough time to discuss the totality of the Sutra, Rebecca focused on one of the key concepts presented early in the Sutra. This is highlighted in a discussion between the Buddha and Ananda regarding the nature of perception. The lesson from the Buddha, in short, is that perception is simply the coming together of causes and conditions. 

These causes and conditions arise from various sources. If we look at sight for example, there is the object we are seeing, let us say a leaf. There is light. Then our eyes. As we probe this further, looking at the layers of factors that come together to create what we experience as the perception of a leaf, we come to our internal contribution to this process. Our feelings and memories, our mood and state of body and mind all color and are part of the process of this perception.  Perception is an interactive process.

Taking this one step further, we see that our internal contribution is also a coming together of causes and conditions. We bring to this interactive perception process our history, our biology, our likes and dislikes and most importantly our biases and habits.

The principals highlighted in this simple example, are easy to see. They can then be applied to more complex situations, for example interpersonal relationships. Normally we see the outside world as something separate from us and something that we can isolate ourselves from. In fact, this is not the case. As we investigate, we see that all perception and in fact all things, are the coming together of causes and conditions. 

The less we are aware of this interplay the greater our suffering. The goal of practice is to develop clear awareness. Through awareness our dualistic view of reality weakens. Our understanding of what the self really is becomes clearer. As such we become more able to navigate this everchanging world of causes and conditions, clearly understand our palace in it, and through this process lessen our suffering, increase our wisdom, and in the end reduce our contribution to the suffering of the world.  

Practice then does not end on the cushion. Our time on the cushion develops our clear awareness in a rarefied environment.  We must then take the skills learned there and bring them to our life in general. Our every day world becomes our practice.

As I said before, these are just highlights, from my perspective. What we gain from a Dharma talk is always personal. It varies with our individual causes and conditions. So, again, I would encourage the reader to listen to Rebecca's talk and discover in it what rings true for you.

*
Audio for this talk  https://bit.ly/3wltWdG

Video for this talk https://youtu.be/T4mqF7kpBG8